November 25, 2013

Growing up Alaskan

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Something I’ve come to appreciate about Cornell is the immense diversity of students. I love hearing about the places where my peers grew up, and I think everyone has a little insight to offer.

I grew up on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula in a fishing town of around 6,000 called, Soldotna. About 150 miles from the state’s biggest city of Anchorage (300,000), you could say life was a bit rural. Nonetheless, I’m especially lucky to have been raised in one of the last places in America that has been generally untouched by the concrete hand of human civilization.


Before coming to Cornell I never realized that the term “The Lower 48” is virtually nonexistent outside of Alaska. It makes sense to me now; I mean, when you live in the continental U.S. you don’t need to refer to the states as a separate entity.

I still laugh when I hear the term, “snowmobile.” I know, I know, technically that is a correct and less confusing term for the winter vehicle. But in a place where artificial snow never needs to be created, we call ‘em “snowmachines,” and tend to laugh at the out-of-towner’s use of “snowmobile.”


For a very long time, I was jealous of my youth counterparts living in the states; I could only imagine what it was like to be able to drive 8-12 hours in a specific direction and traverse multiple states and see different landscapes. A day’s drive in any direction from home pretty much meant hitting the end of the coast or crossing numerous mountain passes to end up in the same basic scenery, but colder. Though I’m appreciative now of the expansive and rugged backyard I grew up with, I still think it’d be nice if ground travel out of the state didn’t have to involve a passport and customs, not to mention ridiculous plane ticket prices and shipping expenses.

A few things that don’t exist or aren’t very prevalent:

Billboards, outdoor pools, freeways/toll booths/interstates, most of the good clothing stores and food chains, public transportation, agriculture (very limited), liberals (just kidding, but really), roads to every town, truck stops, hurricanes, tornadoes, trees that produce orange or red leaves, arbor towns, snakes, most insect pests.


I don’t live in, nor have I ever built, an igloo.

I CANNOT see Russia from my house, neither can Sarah Palin and actually it can only be seen from a few tiny and barely populated islands.